Wednesday, January 09, 2008

World Wants America!

New Year came not only as a good commencement for a fresh global outlook but as proper timing to start thinking what the 2008 US presidential election will bring in US leadership.

But apart from what Americans look forward to for the coming year, it might be good to listen to those from outside looking in.

In an article boldly titled, World Still Hungers for United States, Mr. Moises Naim, editor in chief of Foreign Policy, tersely lays out his optimistic thesis about America’s place in the world stage, though some harsh sniping was not spared.

Though possessed of an MSc and Ph.D degrees from MIT, Mr. Naim is Venezuelan and once served as department minister in his home country; and as reported, is well respected and serves in some prestigious Latin American organizations.

It most probably would serve us well to listen to how Mr. Naim proceeded to present his case. Here are excerpts from his insightful piece:

1. “For the next several years, world politics will be reshaped by a strong yearning for American leadership.”

2. “Of course, the America that the world wants back is not the one that preemptively invades potential enemies, bullies allies or disdains international law.”

3. “Naturally, the world also wants a superpower willing to foot the bill with a largess that no other nation can match.”

4. “Appearing too closely allied with the United States is a risky political position for elected politicians everywhere. Still, some have shown a surprising readiness to stand with America.”

5. “Many foreign leaders will therefore be willing to pay the price that comes with American leadership. They ask only that the price not include subservience to the whims of a giant with more power than brains and whose legitimacy is undermined by regular displays of incompetence, recklessness and ignorance.”
I suppose many, including here in the US, will generally like and be gracious about the complimentary statements that Mr. Naim has brought out in the open. But a more than cursory review may reveal for us a more balanced insight into how things really are.

First, has the world ever lost not only its yearning but presumption that the US ought to lead in any global concern, most especially if it involves large financial outlays and the use of military power with no possible hope of any visible recompense? I doubt it. Even in these difficult times, the US grudgingly continues its solitary role as default sheriff, deep-pockets financier, and solicitous father, to the rest of the world, whether in providing assistance of material goods and services during calamities of any nature, or using its fearsome military presence to keep the rest of the world from imploding or turning upon each other. What could possibly be the paramount self-serving logic for keeping substantial military forces in Europe, Korea, Japan, etc, if not to keep the entire world engaged and tied together, even if the result is only an uneasy and precarious peace? Granted that the resultant peace and security also bodes well for the US and its interests.

Thus, I do not see any “reshaping” of world politics but simply, more business as usual, as always, except maybe that this time some countries may be honest enough to accept their self-serving motives for allying with the US. But I doubt even that.

The second statement gives one an implied sense that the US must be perceived as some kind of recalcitrant bully disdainful of law and order, while the rest of the world is a herded flock of obeisant sheep, stubborn adherents to law and order, and avidly desirous to live in peace and harmony with each other. Do we simply push under the rug the many iniquities and unfairness that the US has had to bear from the rest of the world, at times resignedly, unloaded on it simply because it is the US, the lone superpower? Even the illegal immigrants within its borders are bold enough not only to fly the flags of their countries of origin, or openly seek public services, but even demand rights proper only to citizens. Or many radical groups or hostile countries can proclaim open season for destroying American lives and interests in any part of the globe, but be it damned if it should initiate aggressive precautionary or defensive measures to protect itself because that would be bullying. Or what is now the more PC thing to say, any retaliation would easily be labeled as asymmetric response.

If the last three statements be how to aptly describe the rest of the world, then it speaks poorly of its own leadership, with regard to its own integrity and the nobility of its actions.

Yes, we want your leadership, which translated means your material and military assistance, but we cannot really be identified with you because nobody likes you. And also, should you provide assistance to us, do not expect anything in return whatsoever. Do not expect us to do our rightful share, or tell us what we should do, or to even care what happens to you and your country. We just need your help, period. Just take care of our needs. And by the way, since half of us want to go and live in your country, no territorial borders or laws on migration should obstruct entry of those wanting to.

Now doesn’t one get the feeling that this global leadership thing is one wide one-way street? Wide and easy access for everybody else but.

Kind of reminds one a bit about Shylock’s lament (in Merchant of Venice)

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?
Might not the US be wise to ask to renegotiate the “terms” under this informal, and not mutually agreed upon, global leadership thing, and plead for equal and fair treatment?

To which august body does it turn to?

Image Credit: Downloaded from Library of Congress

6 comments:

  1. One of your best posts ever.

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  2. Thanks, Phil,

    They needed to be said.

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  3. quite lonely at the top, isn't it?

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  4. I don't know about that Dave. After all, there ARE close to a half-billion of us. A big family like ours doesn't necessarily need a lot of outside so-called "friends."

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  5. I grant you, Dave, that in riding solo loneliness will be a constant companion.

    Yet almost daily, we read about how the US is slipping in many areas where it is expected and assumed to dominate. That even in standard of living, it now trails behind other first world countries. That its education is in shambles, requiring outside infusion of even basic math and science teachers. That even its vaunted military is not anymore invincible. That its citizenry is badly unaware of the rest of the world. Etc....

    Which should prompt one to ask: where is this going? And why the continued superabundant expectations from other countries in their dealings with the US?

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  6. it's a matter of impressions, i guess. i'd say the world is still under the mindset of a pax americana.

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